by Gabriel Tallent
(3.76 stars – Goodreads rating)
Published August 29th 2017 by Riverhead Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 417
❝He comes within ten yards of her, spreads his arms wide, his presence here a terrible trespass,
and she loves this about him, sits looking at him, the wind whipping his long hair around his big,
handsome face, him broad-shouldered and enormous as ever.❞
Turtle Alveston lives with her father in a remote little house where everything is functional but is really in a rather broken down state of disrepair. Everything is. Nothing is quite as normal as it should be, but who can judge what normal is supposed to look like for a girl like Turtle?
There is a challenge in these pages. Turtle’s story is an open invitation to know something you aren’t supposed to know and to learn it in a way that makes you feel contemptible. If you accept the challenge, you have to put aside a part of yourself; enough to understand that some things happen that you’re aware of and you still can’t change.
That’s the feeling this book left me with. I felt sick with that feeling and that knowledge. After reading it, I don’t feel satisfied with a resolution. I only feel that maybe the darkness in Turtle’s life was lifted a little to gray.
❝… you are hard on me, but you are good for me, too, and I need that hardness in you. I need you to be hard on me, because I am no good for myself, and you make me do what I want to do but cannot do for myself; but still, but still – you are sometimes not careful…❞
**Sensitive readers should be warned that there are many specific triggers in this book that make it unpalatable. The author does not shy away from describing instances of sexual abuse and sadistic violence. In fact, those instances are written in a way that almost physically made me nauseated because of the careful and almost poetic prose.
This book was beautifully written. This style of writing is what some readers yearn for with every new title they pick up. Tallent’s descriptive technique had me reading and re-reading certain lines out loud just to hear them come off my tongue. He made it so easy to hear the cadence of the characters’ voices, see their environment, feel their chapped or sunburnt skin, and hear the world immediately around them. It was almost like listening to an audiobook while reading the page.
If this is what has made this book so popular – its masterfully constructed prose – then it is well-deserved. As for content, it is a rough read. There are no unicorns and rainbows to endear it to its readers. In that, it resembles its main character – beautiful, with no good right to be so.
❝No, she thinks. No, it cannot be that in the end of it all, I am like you. That cannot be. Those parts of you I turn from, I will turn from forever and I will not at the end of it find that I am like you.❞